How did Saint Anthony get chosen as protector of the Custody? | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

How did Saint Anthony get chosen as protector of the Custody?

As was reported by Father Giuseppe Nazzaro in a circular letter from 1995, the history of the Custody has always been marked by constant devotion to a certain saint of Portuguese origin. But it wasn’t until the early twentieth century (on July 28, 1920) that he was chosen as the “special patron and protector of the Custody.”

In 1917, Palestine, like the rest of the world, was in a state of war. The conflict there was between the British and the Turks. The Turkey authorities, who were allies with Germany, were in charge. European nationals, including religious ones, had not been driven out yet, and Franciscan Italians were still in the country. But at one point, the Turkish governor of Jerusalem, Giamal Pascia, decreed that they be imprisoned. The order was to be enforced as soon as the official decree was issued, which would have left the Holy Places without their Catholic guardians.
The custodial president, Father Eutimio Castellani, called for fervent prayer in all the convents of the Custody in a series of three triduums in honor of Saint Anthony of Padua. The triduum that took place from April 22 to 27 was decisive because the decree had already been issued then. “On the morning of the third day of the triduum,” reports a historian from that time period, “the Patriarch of Jerusalem met with Giamal Pascia, who asked him to bless his auxiliary bishop, Mgr. Piccardo, who was severely ill.” To his great surprise, “he did not just receive the blessing he asked for, but that of the priests and the religious among the Italian Franciscans.”

That was neither the first nor the last of the war’s tribulations, but it was at that moment that Father Eutimio Castellani renewed his desire – expressed under other circumstances – to select Saint Anthony of Padua as the patron saint of the Custody.

Saint Anthony did not wait for this filial gesture to keep providing help. In November 1917, the friars once again faced the risk of imprisonment. Once again, Saint Anthony was invoked and this time, a telegram arrived from Constantinople on the last day of the triduum calling for the release of the imprisoned Franciscans. The injunction stipulated that “the Franciscans of the Holy Land should no longer be bothered; rather, they should be left alone where they are, because they are harmless and are not involved in politics.”

After the war, following a proposal by Father Castellani, his desire was honored, by order of Father Ferdinando Diotallevi and with the ratification of Pope Benedict XV. Since then, Saint Anthony of Padua Day has been a solemnity at the Custody of the Holy Land.

MAB, with the help of Father Basilo Talatinian